April 3, 2000
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v2.1 Reference

Emigré New York

French Intellectuals in Wartime Manhattan, 1940-1944

New York is fascinating, Paris is fascinating, and Paris-on-the-Hudson, while it lasted, was twice as fascinating

Consider the oddly juxtaposed eminence of those in attendance: Wartime New York was the city where French Symbolism, in the person of Maurice Maeterlinck, came to live out its last productive years; where French surrealism, in the person of André Breton, came to survive; and where French structuralism, in the person of Claude Lévi-Strauss, came to be born. From the largely forgotten prewar visit to the city of Pétain and Laval to the seizing, burning, and capsizing of the Normandie, France's floating museum, in the Hudson River, Jeffrey Mehlman evokes the writerly world of French Manhattan, its achievements and feuds, during one of the most vexed periods of French history.

In Emigré New York, a series of surprising and expertly etched portraits emerge against the backdrop of an overriding irony: the United States, the world's principal hope in the battle against Hitler's barbarism, was for the most part more eager to deal with Pétain's collaborationist regime than with what Secretary of State Cordell Hull called de Gaulle's "so-called Free French" movement.

About the Author

Jeffrey Mehlman is University Professor at Boston University and the author, most recently, of Walter Benjamin for Children: An Essay on His Radio Years and Genealogies of the Text: Literature, Psychoanalysis, and Politics in Modern France.


"One of modern European history's great stories. Jeffrey Mehlman tells the tale appealingly and persuasively... The individual stories—not least the symbolism of the ocean liner Normandie's tragic burning and capsizing at its Pier 48 berth—would be plenty to go on with, but Mr. Mehlman's theme is a larger one. He finds the French intellectuals in World War II New York not very different from the French aristocrats who found refuge in Kolblenz in the last decade of the 18th century, hoping for a reversal of the Revolution and restoration of the ancien regime."

- Colin Walters - Washington Times

"Subtle, erudite, and often humorous. Previous attempts by literature professors to tackle culture have not always resulted in works as mind-stretching and entertaining as this account."

- Stanley Hoffman - Foreign Affairs

"A series of elegant essays of cultural criticism."

- Kim Munholland - American Historical Review

"Jeffrey Mehlman has written an intriguing, highly original work... [He] has succeeded in achieving a personal, yet erudite, series of insights about intellectual production of French writers and philosophers exiled in New York during the Second World War... Mehlman deftly and sometime humorously brings to life this motley cast of characters."

- Jonathan Gosnell - French Review

"Mehlman's insightful book on French exiles in wartime New York City enriches the understanding of how very diverse political exiles reacted to the traumatic suffering of their homelands and other countries occupied by the Nazis."

- Edmund J. Campion - Magill's Literary Annual

"Mehlman's greatest achievement... is neither the history he's opened up nor the reputations he's reclaimed. It is the quality of the close reading that is most admirable, tracing words and themes as they echo and resonate from one text to another."

- David Herman - Jewish Quarterly


"Mehlman has written a brilliant, original, and challenging work. There is quite simply no other work like it, because Mehlman works on two levels at once, historical and metaphysical. It should find an eager audience among scholars working in the fields of twentieth-century French literature, the history of French thought, and the history of France in World War II."

- Arthur Goldhammer, Associate of the Center for European Studies at Harvard University
Johns Hopkins University Press
From 17

9780801862861 : emigre-new-york-mehlman
216 Pages
$53.00 USD

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Life and Death in Psychoanalysis

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